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Robert Bodrog

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Poland Picks Skolimowski's 11 Minutes as Oscar Entry for Best Foreign Language Film


Paulina Chapko and Richard Dormer in 11 Minutes, directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

After a five-year hiatus, veteran Polish film director Jerzy Skolimowski is back on the scene. At the age of 77, Skolimowski seems more energized than ever. His latest film, 11 Minutes, an Irish/Polish co-production, wowed audiences in September when it debuted at the 72nd Venice Film Festival and received a special commendation from the festival's Youth Jury. The film also enjoyed packed screenings and favorable buzz at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival, where it was featured as part of the Masters programme, and received a Special Jury Award recently at the 40th Gdynia Film Festival.

And this week, it was announced that 11 Minutes has been chosen as Poland's official candidate for the highly coveted Oscar for best foreign language film. The selection was made by a panel assembled by the Polish Film Institute, which was chaired by director Paweł Pawlikowski, who won Poland's first Oscar in the category earlier this year for his movie Ida. Commenting on the panel's decision, Pawlikowski said “We chose one of the best and most original Polish directors” and described 11 Minutes as “a universal film, realised in a dynamic cinematic language, portraying chaos, cacophony and the emptiness of the modern world."

Aside from various festival screenings, 11 Minutes hasn't been released yet in any territory, nor has it secured a North American distributor. However, that might soon change if the prospect of scooping distribution rights to a bona fide Oscar contender is any enticement. The film will be featured next at the BFI London Film Festival, with screenings on October 10, 12 and 14, with a Polish theatrical release date set for November.

Dawid Ogrodnik in 11 Minutes, directed by Jerzy Skolimowski

Produced by Skolimowski's Skopia Films, co-produced with Dublin-based Element Pictures, whose film Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson won the People's Choice Award last week at the Toronto International Film Festival, 11 Minutes stars Richard Dormer, best known for his role on Game of Thrones, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski, Andrzej Chyra, Dawid Ogrodnik, Mateusz Kościukiewicz, and Agata Buzek.

The synopsis from this year's TIFF catalogue describes the film as follows:

A jealous husband out of control, his sexy actress wife, a sleazy Hollywood director, a reckless drug messenger, a disoriented young woman, an ex-con hot dog vendor, a troubled student on a mysterious mission, a high-rise window cleaner on an illicit break, an elderly sketch artist, a hectic paramedics team and a group of hungry nuns: a cross-section of contemporary urbanites whose lives and loves intertwine. They live in an unsure world where anything could happen at any time. An unexpected chain of events can seal many fates in a mere 11 minutes.

The timing of the Oscar candidate selection is surely welcome news for the film's producers, given that some early reviews by The Hollywood Reporter and Variety following the film's press screening at the Venice Film Festival were not overly enthusiastic. But even the best critics are not always sure how any given film will be received by the public. Will 11 Minutes' distillation of cinematic form and content deliver the goods and leave audiences wanting more? And if so, will it strike a chord with Academy voters the same way Pawlikowski's Ida did? For now, it remains to be seen how Skolimowski's latest feature will fare at the box office and whether its kinetic, face-paced narrative can build some solid momentum on the long road to the Oscar ceremony. The Academy's official shortlist of nine films in the category will be announced in mid-December, with the final five nominees for the Oscar announced on January 14, 2016. The awards ceremony will take place on February 28, 2016.




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